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KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD (foreign office travel advice)

Costa Rica

Costa Rica Holidays 2017/2018

Packed with adventure and ecotourism, holidays to Costa Rica are brimming with tropical rainforest, wildlife reserves and volcanic parks. On the other side of the coin are its idyllic, secluded beaches that are sure to attract those in need of some indulgence.

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Relaxing and being at one with nature

The Central American country of Costa Rica is a place of rich natural beauty, from its long, deserted beaches to the lush rainforest and volcanic interior. Holidays can be spent doing very little or romancing in luxury resorts, and there are busier places to stay that are great for families and those looking to indulge in some Costa Rican nightlife. Adventures abound among its numerous natural parks and forest tours, while there are outdoor exploits to be found in almost all of its resorts, including horse-riding and scuba diving.

Nestled between Panama and Nicaragua, Costa Rica is a Spanish-speaking country with plenty of Mexican influence. It has coasts on the Pacific to the west and Caribbean to the east, both boasting excellent stretches of sand and clear, warm water. The majority of the resorts are located along the Pacific coast, with the north-western Guanacaste region being particularly popular.

Where to stay in Costa Rica

Playa De Matapalo
Playa De MatapaloView on Map

This off the beaten track resort offers visitors the chance to relax away from the hub of the busier tourist spots along the stunning coastline. Relax on the peaceful beach with views of mountains cloaked in dense rainforest or explore nearby national parks and even go zip-lining or canopy walking.

Playa Flamingo
Playa FlamingoView on Map

The sights and sounds of Playa Flamingo make this corner of Costa Rica a sublime one where the laid-back lifestyle reigns supreme. Traditional eateries are the order of the day around the country's largest marina, while turtles and birds play along the spectacular sand of one of the country's best beaches.

Playa Hermosa
Playa HermosaView on Map

Translating as 'Beautiful Beach', Playa Hermosa lives up to the name in every sense. The Pacific Ocean laps at a tranquil silver-sanded shore that's popular without being overcrowded for gentle days by the beach. You can head to nearby national parks, Arenal Volcano or the town of Hermosa.

Playa Tamarindo
Playa TamarindoView on Map

At Playa Tamarindo, the finer points of Costa Rica's downtempo lifestyle are amplified, nestling well with the zeal for life that defines the locals. Surfing and other watersports make for active days. Tourism has brought a wealth of restaurants and bars to the area, without interfering with its natural beauty.

Quick Tips

  • Roman Catholic
  • Costa Rican Colón
  • Spanish
  • Approx 4.8m
  • GMT + 6

Peaceful and playful

In Costa Rica you're free to enjoy the ultimate away-from-it-all trip, staying in luxury accommodation at Playa de Matapalo or Playa Flamingo – the latter of which is known for its fishing opportunities and sunset cruises. If you prefer, you could also stay near a small town like Playa Tamarindo to make the most of its facilities.

What all resorts across the country have in common is access to amazing beaches and tropical jungles. You can easily get set up on family-friendly nature tours through the jungle and mangroves, exploring caves and the ocean. As well as wildlife-spotting, cheap Costa Rica holidays are full of opportunities to go rock climbing, ziplining, scuba diving and horseback riding to take in the scenery.

Upbeat Tamarindo

Playa Tamarindo is perhaps the liveliest place to stay in Costa Rica and you'll be in the company of surfers who make the most of the waves here. There are some good jewellery and clothes shops, as well as a central plaza that houses bars and one nightclub. Aqua Disco is set over two floors and puts on a popular Ladies Night every Monday.

In Playa Tamarindo and nearby Playa Hermosa, you'll find beach bars that put on parties on the sand, but otherwise nightlife is pretty low key in Costa Rica. Much of the entertainment is in the hotels, with live music and shows being held regularly.

Ecotourism rules

In order to preserve Costa Rica's beautiful natural environment, its government has formed national conservation areas, including over 100 national parks, biological reserves and wildlife refuges. In the north-western area near Playa Hermosa and Tamarindo are Parque Nacionals Santa Rosa, Guanacaste, Palo Verde and Rincon de la Vieja.

Ecotourism is encouraged and you can explore these areas with a guide, who'll take you to spot the exotic, colourful birds and wildlife including patterned tree frogs and sloths. There are also night tours where you can spot giant insects, moths and bats. Even if you don't go on an organised tour, you're sure to see monkeys frolicking in the trees and turtles flapping on the beaches while you're enjoying Costa Rica holidays.

Central Costa Rica’s volcanoes and capital city

The centre of the country is home to two volcanoes – Arenal and Poas – with the former looming over a huge lake of the same name. Local tour guides offer boat trips to take in the immense scenery, plus some of the world's top windsurfing and sailboarding conditions. You can also kayak on the lake and catch rainbow bass or cycle or ride horse-back around its shores.

South of Lake Arenal is Monteverde cloud forest, an unusual area of woodland where the top canopy is almost always covered in fog. The moisture here creates a huge amount of biodiversity. You can traverse a set of eight hanging bridges that are strung high across the trees before ziplining one kilometre down, spotting toucans as you go.

If shopping and culture is more your thing, Costa Rica's capital San Jose is located in the centre of the country. It offers a fantastic mix of neo-classical and modern architecture, housing numerous art galleries, bars and museums.